Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dubwize: Ambassadors of the Salas Sound

Next week, the members of Salinas reggae band Dubwize will set course for Puerto Rico, where they will stay for a month, play gigs and basically do the whole band on the run thing.

They will do this as ambassadors of the Salinas sound, aka The Salas Sound, a variation of dub, reggae, punk and funk that is equal parts War, August Pablo, Sublime and Dr. Dre.

It's a good look for a young band that has emerged as this as the front runners of this as yet undefined Salinas dub/reggae sound. Dubwize lit the flame, bands like Cali Nation and Wasted Noise taken the torch and passed it to the left hand side.

For folks that have known the band since it began almost 10 years ago, it's a point of pride to watch it's members reach their full potential.

The most exciting thing to watch has been the consistency of solid grooves and evolving live performances. Lead singer/bassist Mony Lujan has humbly ascended the ranks of young Salinas musicians, his talent taking him to different places with his own band and as a guest musician with other acts. Drummer/co-band leader Rasta Jon is the backbone of the group, musically and otherwise.

Founding member Steven Sagrero plays the keyboard like a maestro, while guitarist Juan Ramos Jr. skanks it up with the best of them. Skinner Dread, the melodica-playing, party starting firecracker, provides the band with it's endearing soul.

Add the fiery horn section of Barry Capiux and Jason Miltz and you have a full-scale reggae assault.

The band's very existence seems to defy a certain East Salinas logic, the section of town where the band originated. The slow-grooving, bass-heavy reggae rhythms are not the first thing one might expect to hear from Alisal High School graduates. The sight of a dread-locked Chicano frontman rocking out with black, white and brown band members is indeed a very cool thing.

But in Salinas, the sound of the street is the sound of the island, and it makes sense. Salas could qualify as a rural Trench Town, the storied ghetto yard that Bob Marley glorified in his music. In Dubwize, you have a band of wailing souls trying to slow down babylon, i.e. gangsta mentalities, low-income families, class division and political sand bagging that is prevalant in Salas Town.

Because of this, Dubwize has emerged as the unofficial spokesmen for a generation of Salinas youth, eager to bust out of the muck on its own terms. They will be given a heroe's sendoff this weekend when they perform at the American Legion hall, one of the few venues that allows live music in Salinas. The crowd will be young and irie, noisy and ruckus, all of the things that make Salas such a beautiful place.

Dubwize's music matches that beauty note for note, in a manner that only the true ambassadors of the Salas sound can.

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